Social influence: Conformity

Types of Conformity

Why people comform

Asch (1951)

Zimbardo (1973)

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  • Created by: Aliison
  • Created on: 13-05-10 09:41

Types of Conformity

Social influence; the ways in which a person's beliefs, attitudes or behaviours are modified by the presence or actions of others.

Types of conformity

Conformity; a change in behaviour due to a real or imagine group. This has been argued (Zimbardo) that you are more likely to change behaviour in a group you feel you belong to - a referance group. There are two types;

1) Conpliance; Publicly conforming to the views of others but privatly maintaining your own eg going to see a film your friends want to see but you don't.

2) Internalization; a true change of private views to match the group, these are now your own views are do not depend on the presence of the group. eg listening to a type of music your friends like that you didn't previously like, you now do and listen to at home.

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Why Do People Conform?

Why Do People Conform?

Normative social influence: this is due to a desire to be liked, we conform because we want others to approve, accept and like us. This is often linked with compliance as it is publicly conforming.

Informative social influence; this is due to a desire to be right, we look to others when we need information on what to do/how to behave, we look to those we believe to be right. This is more common in new situations.

Situational factors can have an effect on this;

we are often panicky, not allowing us to think calmly therefore we are likey to look to others on what to do although others may also be unsure of what to do.

Expertise/Knowledge; another factor is if we are in the presence of someone with known experitse or knowledge. eg we may be less likely to run for a fire escape during a fire bell if a teacher mutters "not another fire practice! -_-"

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Asch (1951) - Majority Influence

Aim: To see if participents would conform to majority social influence and give incorrect answers where the correct answer is obvious.

- 7 male students (peers) were given two cards, the 'test' card showing one vertical line; the other showing 3 vertical lines of different lengths
- Prticipants were asked to say which of the 3 lines were the same as on the test card
- All participants apart from one were accomplices of Asch, the genuine participant was second to last

- Participants conformed on 32% of the critical trials (small % but the answer was obvious)
- 72% conformed at least once
- 26% didn't conform, although they expressed doubt
- Some participants claimed to have actually seen the incorrect line to be correct.

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Evaluation of Asch


Population bias, Asch used all male college students, therefore it can't be generalised. There may also be cultural bias as it took place in the USA. Smith&Bond looked at the Asch experiment and concluded that western/individualistic cultures had lower levels of conformity

The research took place in the 1950's - a very conservative era meaning that there was a high level of pressure to conform anyway
Smith&Bond did simular research with british students in 1980 (very individualised era; riots) and found only 1 conforming response in 396 trials. Although they used maths&science students who are very logical and would be considered less likely to conform

Ethical Issues, participants need to be debriefed as they could leave the experiment feeling bad about themselves for conforming or doubting their judgement

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Zimbardo (1975) Conformity to social roles

Aim: to investigate if people would conform to the roles of a guard or a prisoner in a role-playing exercise simulating prison life and to see if the brutality that had been reported in American prisons was to do with the personalities of the guards or the prison envrionment

- Male student volunteers were paid $15 a day to take part in a 2 week simulation of prison life
- They were randomly allocated the roles of prisoners or guards
- They were arrested by police at their homes, stripped of their identity and given a number
- 3 guards on each shift wearing khaki uniforms, dark glasses and had wooden batons

- The guards harassed and humiliated the prisoners and conformed to their roles, so much that the study had to be discontinued after six days.
- Prisoners rebelled after two days (they felt it was their role to rebel)
- Some prisoners became depressed and anxious, one prisoner left after a day

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Evaluation of Zimardo


Zimbardo said "good people were put into a bad situation, and the bad situation overcame the good people" However, it could be argued that the volunteers were 'good participants' and tried to conform. Although prisoners showed such distress that this is unlikely (although participant John Wayne said this was the case for him)

Zimbardo got involved with the experiment, he took the role of superintendant AND the researcher. Being involved stopped him from being able to see the harm it was doing

Ethical issues: harm to participants? Zimbardo claims that the de-brief left them the same as before the experiment. Footage from the de-breif shows anger from the prisoners towards the guards. De-brief usefull to get rid of negative feelings?
Deception was also involved, they were not informed of the full content/extent of the role play. They were not told about real police cars etc - was this level of reality really necessary?

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Evaluation of Zimbardo - continued

BBC Prison Study - Haslam&Reicher (2002) was a similar set up to Zimbardo except they remained as the researchers, an ethical committe watched over the experiment and the participants knew they were being filmed.
They found that the guards were uncomfortable with their power and they became divided and powerless. Whereas the prisonners who were unhappy with their unequal status stuck together and challenged the guards authority, therefore does not support Zimbardo.
However, the presence of TV cameras will have effect how people behave.

The Lucifer Effect by Zimbardo (2007)
Zimbardo argues that the American soldiers responsible for the torture after the Iraq war were not bad people but anyone would be the same had they been put in that situation. The situation creates a risk that abuses will occur in.
Zimbardo says this was simular to them that happened in the prison - therefore this could be evidence to support Zimbardo's theory.

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little short on explanations...




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